Cold and Snowy Christmas Week at the Ski Resorts?!?!

FeaturedFirst Trax

For today… “Into Every Life, a Little Rain Must Fall…”

I’m definitely showing my age this morning by quoting a 1963, Ella Fitzgerald tune. The apropos lyrics are:

Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts
But when I think of you another shower starts
Into each life some rain must fall
But too much is falling in mine…

You can probably blame Kenny Griffin and I on this rain today. It never fails – if we install a new webcam somewhere (anywhere) you can bet that the next day or so will be crap conditions in which to view the new location. Today’s “culprit” is a new location over near the Henderson/Tryon/Asheville area called Horse Shoe Farm.
I’m Subbing for theKenDog today…
I’m stepping in to free Kenny up as he is working with the Horse Shoe Farm peeps to take that camera LIVE this morning. (I think he did this on purpose because he didn’t want to talk about the “unsaid word” around here. You know…under-developed snow…rain.) Regardless, someone has to talk about it.

I know that I featured Snowshoe’s latest, kind of cool, quirky video on the front page, but it’s also HERE for your convenience….

I was watching our Meteorological brother, Brad Panovich last night and although he was talking about this batch of rain coming through, he was also talking about a great, return to COLD and even some natural snow as we get to Christmas week which is awesome for those of us who have ski getaway plans for the Christmas to New Year week.

Okay, so from now through Saturday/Sunday – we will probably see some rain. Most of those days it will be the 40%-60% variety. Saturday looks to be the wettest day across the region (along with today in many locations around the Southeast and mid-Atlantic). However, all of the resorts did a great job of making snow during the last round of consistently cold air and bases and coverage looks plentiful to withstand this short stretch of wet conditions. Sure, there will be some thin spots that will pop up at a few ski areas that started late in the snowmaking game, but there’s plenty of snow, so don’t fret the wet…
Then Santa looks to be bringing in some really, sweet, cold air on Christmas Day and those cold temps look to be with us right through to at least January 3rd. I’m talking about temps in the low to mid 20s for highs and lows in the teens to near 10-12° some nights. Snow showers are in the forecast at Snowshoe Mountain during the huge week for all ski resorts.

Click to Enlarge for Clarity!

Here’s a snapshot of the forecast for Wisp…>

In fact, Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain and some of the North Carolina ski areas could see a little Christmas Eve and Christmas Day snow flurries to snow showers and then the same cold and snowy trend as just mentioned for Snowshoe.

Additionally, looking at the next seven days across the entire region…things are looking really quite nice. Wisp Resort is looking at a low of 5° Tuesday night! So if you’ve got travel plans to your favorite mountain for Christmas Day…and week, then you’re going to have some of the best conditions in recent memory. If you have yet to make those reservations, get to it. There are very few places left at some ski areas, but make it happen and you’ll have an awesome time.

In a REALLY nice gesture…Aspen Skiing Co. has set up a soup kitchen for employees who haven’t been able to work yet because of low-snow conditions, according to published reports.

Skico started feeding unemployed workers dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays since the day after Thanksgiving, according to Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications. The meals are provided on a rotating basis at Bumps Restaurant at the base of Buttermilk and the Treehouse at Snowmass.

The number of diners has ranged from 100 to 160, Hanle said. That applies primarily to lift operators and other seasonal workers who have arrived from out of town.

Skico’s dinners for unemployed workers have become a tradition that company officials would prefer to be in a position to avoid. Former Skico President and CEO Bob Maynard starting feeding unemployed workers during slow starts in the early 1990s. In 2002, the company served 1,250 dinners over 18 nights.

Employee dinners were hosted last year as well, when the season got off to a similarly sluggish start. Skico employs about 3,800 workers at peak season between its mountain operations, hotels and restaurants.

Skico’s dedication to serving meals to dozens of employees that are hard pressed for work is somewhat of a tradition at this point.
So we’re off to a great start so far this winter here in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. Okay, a “great-ish” start. We’d all love it if consistent cold and snows started up just after Halloween and lasted until April 1st. However, that’s never been “a thing” here in the southeast. Winters are certainly cold at the higher elevations for much of the winter, but we’ve always (always) had those periods where resorts have had to fight to maintain good snow. A great winter for us is one that provides around 90-110 good days on the snow per year. If 8-10 of those weekends are just “good” and that means not raining…then it’s “all good”. Throw in the obligatory 2-3 iffy weekends and a stretch of about a week of typical thaw and every mountain ops person at every ski area will tell you that bodes well for a pretty darn good-to-great season. If we can also get a few good snow storms that dump some nice, natural snowfalls, then you’d see smiles on every GMs face across the entire region.

By the way, “good snowfalls” are those that fall on Wednesday and are in the 6-8″ range and enough to excite the masses in the flatlands and yet keep the roads clear of snow. Some well timed, natural snow really trumps every kind of marketing promotion that any resort can dream up. When ski areas see the kind of snow that we saw back on December 9th, the crowds flock to the slopes.

So far, so good. While we might not have had a fast-start November, it has been good thus far. The resorts are primed with decent base coverage right now and with the cold and snowy, Christmas-to-New-Year period forecasted for next week, we’re off to a really nice start that will have every resort in our region breathing a lot better than they were over the last couple of years.
So what does a great winter look like?
If things go as they usually do with an average or normal winter, a great winter looks like nearly 2 MILLION skier visits to the 16 ski resorts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. The WV Ski Areas attract around 800,000 visits annually; the NC Ski Areas pull 600,000-650,000 (653,654 in 2014 which is the last season we are aware of data for) and while the VA Ski Areas don’t share such a report, we suspect a half million or so skiers and snowboarders will hit the four Virginia ski mountains as well as the ski areas in Gatlinburg and Wisp Resort in Maryland.

Those skiers and snowboarders spend a ton of money at area lodging, restaurants, shops and more. In fact, economic impact studies in West Virginia and North Carolina reveal around $250M worth of impact in WV and $197M in the NC ski communities. Add in the VA and Maryland resorts and our mountain communities of the Southeast gain more than one-half BILLION dollars in economic benefit from the 16 ski resorts that dot our mountaintops. While the benefits are not perfectly spread out equitably, that still works out to around $37,000,000 worth of monetary “life-blood” per ski area to those towns and businesses that they are located in.

Several studies have shown that of all of the lodging bookings made in an entire year at locations like Beech and Sugar Mountain (and many other resort towns) that 60-70% of an entire year’s worth of bookings take place in the three-four month period that ski areas are operating.

Additionally, thousands of jobs are provided by those same ski areas. In West Virginia alone – over 5000 jobs are attributed to the four ski areas in the Wild and Wonderful state.

The Christmas-to-New-Year week is the most important week at every ski area every year. That one week can count for as much as 10%-20% (and more) of an entire season in terms of skier-visits and revenue for a ski area. A season like we had two Christmases ago where no ski area was even operating for a few days can be hugely detrimental.

I recently read a story about how 23 million people participate in winter sports annually across the United States and that those skiers and snowboarders bring more than $12 BILLION to the U.S. economy. The same story went off-track a bit by also proclaiming that seasons have grown so much shorter in the last ten years, cutting nearly $1.07 billion from that average annually. I’m not going to credit the story as it was in a well-known publication, but they also quoted that “…in Colorado, “low-snow” winters caused an 8% decline in skier visits, which resulted in a $154 million decrease in revenue.”

That last fact is accurate and in fact, southern ski areas can see an even larger “percentage hit”. I’m not going along with the shorter seasons thing though because they’ve only been tracking data since 2003 and I can tell you we had some short seasons around here back in the 60s, 70s and 80s!

As these kinds of articles go…and as the groups that tend to want to use scare tactics operate…they further stated, “Under a worst-case-scenario, where winter temperatures increase 4 to 10 degrees by the end of the century, the NRDC predicts snow depths in the American West could decline between 25 to 100%, and the length of the snow season in the Northeast could be cut in half.”

I don’t want to get political here…but Good Grief Charlie Brown. I could say, “Under a NORMAL-case-scenario, where winter temperatures stay about the same (+/- 1°) we could see the same snow depths and cold temperatures and really nice winters for the next 73 years (end of century).”

I really don’t tolerate the “gloomers and doomers” well. However, regardless of their “witch-hunt tactics”, when things are less than sweet for a stretch of time, we can see weekends that might attract only 25%-50% of normal skier visits and that certainly makes things tough for our resorts.

No area in the entire United States knows how to fight the challenges of Winter better than our very own Southeastern ski resorts. NO season is without its challenges here in the south. Every season, every mountain ops staffer at every resort monitors the weather like there’s no tomorrow, because without that cold air and the phenomenal snow-making technologies available and the massive efforts of those snowmakers…we wouldn’t be able to hit our favorite slopes…tomorrow or any other day.
Want to See Your Favorite Ski Hill Survive and Thrive?
Introduce a friend to the joy of skiing or snowboarding. The sport grew significantly a decade or two back as baby boomers grew to love the snow and all that comes with it. However, those baby boomers are growing older and skiing less and at least so far, the industry is seeing that millennials are not hitting the slopes nearly as much as the previous generations. That fact comes from Ralf Garrison, founder of DestiMetrics, a resort lodging analytics firm.

“People are still skiing and boarding, but they are also hiking, mountain biking, and there’s more snow-playing, so it’s beginning to diversify within the recreation category,” Carl Ribaudo, president of tourism marketing firm SMG Consulting, said.

If you are reading this post, then YOU are a lover of snow. Don’t keep that joy to yourself. Invite a friend or a friend of a friend to join you. Not only will you enjoy the time on the snow more yourself, you will create memories with that friend that will last a lifetime. I can tell you that in the last year I personally invited and introduced skiing and snowboarding to five friends of our family. Every single one of them can’t talk about it enough.

That will do it for me today. I want to say “thank you” for making this website a daily stop in your day. Pass the word or email a friend to pay us a visit. Also if you haven’t done so already, check out the messageboard. We have lots of industry insiders, ski patrol and instructors and lots of fellow skiers and snowboarders who are on there every day. Click over, join in on the conversation. It’s fun and it’s free.

Also check out all the Ski Resort Live Webcams and our Skier’s Weather

Email me anything, anytime at [email protected]

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